Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2007 Issue

Rose's Books and the Cistercians

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The Antiphonarium Cisterciense.


by Renée Magriel Roberts

As booksellers, we've certainly all experienced moments of serendipity -- the chance meeting that results in a wonderful buy or a still better sale, or the good luck of being in the right place at the right time. Our networks of relationships often lead from one good contact to another opportunity.

But during this past summer, something quite extraordinary happened to us at Rose's Books, something that appears to have been the fruit of seeds sown many years before. Something you'd never think would happen to a semi-reclusive scholarly couple, selling entirely on the Internet.

It began with a telephone call from a monastery of cloistered nuns, the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (the Trappists). The sister who contacted us thought, or had heard, that we might be able to help her sell their monastery's choir books. Why us? Our business was named after my doctoral dissertation (as well as a wonderful aunt), "The Clock and the Rose", which centered upon the change of mind that occurred in Western Europe in the fourteenth century. The "Rose" is the rose window in the great cathedrals, and also refers to the Virgin Mary.

Now, the sister had no way of knowing that as part of my doctoral work I had to engage in a practicum, and since I could not return to the Middle Ages, I spent the greater part of 1998 taking voice lessons and studying Gregorian chant.

So, although I really did not know much about this order and its choir books specifically, I certainly had an interest in, and a history of studying, the Rule of St. Benedict and Gregorian Chant. The sister sent us pictures and some more information, and we agreed to go to the monastery to view the books.

The Abbey sat on a hilltop quite close to the state highway system, tucked away in trees and fields. Once the summer home of a major industrialist, the property now housed 48 sisters, who had come from all over the world to live and to pray, following the Rule of St. Benedict.

The books were enormous, elephant-folio sized, bound with brass borders, bosses, feet, and exquisite sacred hearts. Printed throughout in red and black, the chant notation was dimensional to the touch, and included exquisite illustrations and capitals, some extending the entire length of the page. Although the books had been printed in 1947, they seemed very unusual. The monastery was divesting the books because the Latin liturgy had long since been changed to the vernacular, and they now use smaller, modern, more easily-held versions that did not strain their backs.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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